Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings that improved the Leafs’ record to 14-5-5.
On the team’s performance:
I thought this was obviously not our best game of the trip for sure. Credit to Detroit. They came at us hard and made life hard on us to get out of our zone, in particular. But I thought, obviously, our goaltending was outstanding again, as it has been all trip.
I thought we defended way too much because of our inability to break out, but especially in periods two and three, we really didn’t give up the big chance. There were a lot of shots from the perimeter and a lot of long shots.
They got a tip on one that went in in the third there, but by and large, I thought the guys did a good job of allowing Matt to see the puck. With the way [Murray] is playing, if he is seeing it, he is stopping it. That was really good.
The one thing that stands out to me as to why we come out on the right side of the game — and it is nice to see because it wasn’t the case on the trip — is the special teams were really good. The penalty kill was excellent and gave us a lot of momentum and life in the first period there.
We came out of that kill and scored right away. We got a power play and scored right away there, too. That little portion of the first period where we scored those two goals and got that penalty kill were a huge part of the game. The PK was good the rest of the way, too.
On the team remaining undefeated since TJ Brodie — and subsequently Morgan Rielly — went down injured:
Any time you lose a guy, it stings and it sucks, but then you just get to work. Whether you are a coach or a player, you have to press on. When you are a guy coming into the lineup or a guy that is playing more, everybody just has to play better, play smarter, play more connected as a group, defend better, compete, and find ways to win.
We have done that. We have given ourselves chances to win each game, and when we do that, we are a good enough team that we are going to find our way to the right side of it.
On whether it is a testament to the team’s depth as a luxury other clubs don’t have:
Listen, there are a lot of teams — whether it is this season or in history — that deal with a lot of injuries and still find a way to win.
Certainly, in our case, Mac Hollowell comes up and plays his first NHL games out here on this trip. I think he’s done a good job. He gets his first point here tonight. He made a great play off of that breakout to lead to Matthews’ goal. It is a good sign for him and well deserved with the work that he has put in. He takes advantage of his opportunity, comes in — in tough circumstances — and finds a way to give us good minutes and be part of the wins.
As we talked about throughout the trip, the team game is making everybody better.
On whether Hollowell could be a player who thrives in the NHL more than the AHL thanks to the structure of the game:
There is something to be said for that. It is a more organized and structured game at the NHL level for sure. I think there is a lot more that goes into it than that. Sometimes, some of the weaknesses you see with a player at the AHL level might make you think he maybe isn’t ready for the NHL. Those things sometimes sort themselves out.
Each player is different, but in the NHL, because of a little more structure — or maybe a lot more structure — and how the players play both on offense and on defense, the game itself makes a little more sense and is a little bit easier to sort out that way.
On how the team has been able to avoid “the big chance” against:
Discipline to the structure. We haven’t been perfect with our decisions with the puck, but for the most part, we have made good decisions there. I just like the commitment to come back to our end and fill the middle of the rink.
On their first goal, they got in behind us a little bit there, but for the most part, they are not in behind us. We are above the puck a lot and clogging things up through the neutral zone, forcing them to dump it in. If they do get entries, we are denying the middle of the rink pretty well as a team. As a team, our d-zone coverage is clogging the middle of the rink.
All of those things our team has adhered to pretty consistently. It gives you a chance to win every game, especially with the goaltending that we have been getting. We have good players that can capitalize.